Found footage films, look you see, seem to have had a peculiar renaissance of late. Is renaissance the right word? Maybe.
As far as I am aware the first really well known “found footage” film was Cannibal Holocaust in the late 70s, and then….pretty much nothing until Blair Witch Project took the format on. Blair Witch in itself broke ground, of course, by being the first film which used the internet almost exclusively for marketing (a very bold step in the late 90s), but that’s another story.
The 00s and 10s have seen the format gain all sorts of popularity, with it once again being the horror genre that it’s used in. Of the found footage films from the last 10 years or so I must confess I have only seen the one – VHS – but I am aware that something called Paranormal Activity exists and, so I am led to believe, also uses this narrative form.
VHS was the only one I had seen, that is, until this weekend. Poundland, a shop I am rather fond of, has gone crazy insane with brand spanking new Blu Ray discs on the go for ₤1 each, and so I have stocked up.
Amongst the treasures they had on offer was not just one or even three, but two “found footage” films. I had not heard of either, and couldn’t really tell them apart, so I went right ahead and bought both.
Should the above picture not be too clear, the ones I got are called Skinwalkers (originally released as Skinwalker Ranch) and Alien Abduction. In a most peculiar move for me, I also watched both films over the weekend after I bought them. Well, I’ve grown weary of the same NCIS repeats on TV every night, and there was no Eurovision or anything like that.
Were either of them any good? Yes. For a spoiler free review for you, both films – whilst covering fairly similar ground – were well made, featured almost all good casting choices and provided a decent number of “scare jumps” for the thrillseeking sort of film watcher who likes such things.
A closer look at both? Surely. I will try my best not to do too much of this, but be warned about spoilers ahead and to be safe, in case you didn’t get the message, please note that a *** POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING *** sort of warning is now in place.
The only real problem I had with this film was the name. Skinwalker Ranch suits it perfectly, Skinwalkers makes it sound like a very different sort of horror film. Changing it was a dumb idea, unless it was done at the behest of the lawyers of George Lucas who felt it might sound rather too much like his own Skywalker Ranch, and then it was a very wise idea.
The other problem I had with the film was that one of the actors involved was just plain awful. Worryingly he was the one who, early on in the film, seemed to be the leader. Fears that he would have extensive screentime, however, were misplaced, as he barely features after his clumsy intro. I suspect he was in a lot more scenes, but the are now mercifully sat on a cutting room floor somewhere.
Other than those points, a solid scarefest that keeps you interested. You have no idea for sure was to what’s going on, and there’s plenty of scares across the 80 or so minutes the film takes of your life. A big plus for those that like the idea of found footage films but are not quite so keen on the “shaky cam” effect which tends to be on the go in most is that a lot of this “found footage” is recorded on fixed monitor cameras.
What's that above? The other four Blu Ray discs I bought for £1 each off of Poundland. Yes they are two of them Twilight things and no I most decidedly do not like them but my (considerably) better half does. Well, she is married to me and thus likes all whiny emo boys that glitter ever so pretty in the moonlight. The King's Speech is about some dude with a stutter and it's based on history, so I will assume it's one of them biopic things about Morris Minor out of Morris Minor & The Majors; a band who briefly had some chart success with Stutter Rap. The Woman In Black is one I saw on DVD and it was good, so I figured for 20% of the price I paid for the DVD I could totally upgrade to Blu Ray.
Did I have any reservations about buying either of these films? Yes. They both have been awarded a “15” certificate from the BBFC.
Whilst I am aware of the fact that they have got better (as in they almost treat adult audiences like adults), the BBFC were always notorious with horror films. If in days gone by they awarded a 15 to a horror film then that meant that the film had no scares of consequence and no graphic violence or nudies. If, however, they awarded it an 18, then you could be sure that all the cool stuff, the graphic sex and violence, would have been cut, and so too with them the scare factor.
Happily both had scares, tension and thus the entertainment factor you would want off a horror without being overtly violent (and having no nudies). This is even the case in Alien Abduction, which for some reason makes use of that most arse headed technique of the world of cinema; starting off the movie with showing it how it ends.
It’s similar but different to Skinwalkers, as I think you can probably work out for yourself. It is, frankly, ace it is, to be sure. The performances are really good across the board – in particular the 11 year old autistic boy and what you’d categorize as a “redneck”, a character which avoids the lowest common denominator stereotypes. Yes, this one features a bit of “shaky cam” action, but it’s not of a nature that makes you dizzy or nauseous.
Other than the silly decision to show the end of the film at the start, the only real flaw here is that there’s quite a few too many “blink and you will miss” details hidden from direct view as you watch. On the one side this sort of thing is nice to find on repeat viewings (Usual Suspects, Se7en), but on the other I would think it’s rare that someone would watch a “found footage” film more than once. To this end, then, it seems like a lot of the attention to details paid by the makers was a waste, unless like me you “rewind” the disc to see something your own (considerably) better half clocked and you did not.
Over on IMDB these two films get close to an “average” rating, with Skinwalkers getting just over 5 and Alien Abduction getting just below. For what it’s worth, I’d go a point or two higher. That I got them for ₤1 a go may have some bearing on that. If you’re looking for less than 90 minutes of decent filmmaking that gives you cheap yet very effective thrills, these two will do the job.
As ever, I can only hope these pondering comments are in some way of some use to someone out there!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!